SINGAPORE - Crowds flocked to the Downtown Line on Sunday (Dec27), as its second phase opened to the public.
The 12 stations on Downtown Line 2 - a 16.6km stretch spanning Bukit Panjang to Rochor - drew thousands of curious commuters from all over the island on its first day.
More than 97,000 people rode on the entire Downtown Line as of 3pm on Sunday, said operator SBS Transit.
Many were excited that several stations, such as Beauty World and Tan Kah Kee, are near food places and schools.
Some said the new line significantly reduces their travel time. The journey from Bukit Panjang to Rochor, for example, is expected to take 20 minutes less compared to previous routes.
Bukit Panjang resident Helen Tan, 65, who goes to church in Holland Village every week, said commuting on the new train line saved her about 20 minutes.
"It's very convenient now. It used to take me about an hour by bus, and the waiting time could be quite unpredictable due to traffic," said the retiree.
Special education teacher Nasirdah Syed Mohd, 42, who also lives in Bukit Panjang, said the new line makes travelling to work less of a hassle.
"I work in Queenstown and it's troublesome having to take the LRT to Choa Chu Kang and change trains at Jurong East," said the mother of two.
"Now I can just take the Downtown Line to Botanic Gardens and transfer to a bus to Queenstown."
MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Liang Eng Hwa described the new line as a "game changer" for Bukit Panjang's transport landscape.
Residents in the area, previously not serviced by MRT lines, were reliant on bus services such as 190 and 972 to get into town. These buses, however, are often packed.
Mr Liang said on Sunday: "The line may change lifestyles. Residents now have new weekend destinations to explore."
Human resources recruiter Luke Chan, 24, said new line will connect him directly to his workplace near the Downtown station and Beauty World, where he frequents for food.
"I've been waiting for this line for a very long time," said the Hillview Avenue resident, who was eating lunch at Beauty World Centre. "I love the food here and at Bukit Timah Market and Cheong Chin Nam Road nearby."
Rides starting and ending on the Downtown Line, run by SBS Transit, are free till Jan 1, 2016.
Long lines leading up to the station gates had formed especially around lunch time, and about 360 staff were deployed to assist commuters.
Station staff were seen distributing free Downtown Line tote bags to commuters, some of whom woke up early on Sunday just to explore the new line and its stations.
Retiree Chau Kee Hong, 71, and his wife Tang Cheh Khoon, 68, left their Jurong West home at about 8am.
Said Madam Tang, who works as a cleaner: "We are getting out at every stop just to look around and familiarise ourselves with the stations and their surroundings."
Pointing to the wall art at the Botanic Gardens station, Mr Chau said: "The art work is very beautiful. It really adds to the atmosphere."
Teacher Amy Allyar, 50, agreed. She said of the art work at Little India station: "It shows that our country is not so sterile and boring."
The driverless trains also served as entertainment to many children, who were drawn to the front and rear of the carriages.
Nine-year-old Gerrett Soon, who was commuting with his mother and younger sister, said: "I like that the trains are automatic. It's cool because I can see the tunnel."
The Downtown Line 2 stations are Bukit Panjang, Cashew, Hillview, Beauty World, King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue, Tan Kah Kee, Botanic Gardens, Stevens, Newton, Little India and Rochor. They link with the six existing stations on Downtown Line 1 at Bugis station.